Monday, November 9, 2009

Shipping Container And Truck Hazards Can Increase During Hard Times

Extra Vigilance Needed but New Discovery may have Ramifications for Transport
Shipping News Feature

Australia – India – US – UK When economic times start to take a toll on freight carriers of all types there is a tendency to cut corners and when this impinges on the transport of hazardous goods it can result in tragic consequences.

Numerous factors can have an influence on whether accidents happen in this regard. Most authorities across the world now have systems in place to deal with spillages and escapes occurring during transit. Not only during a vessels working life however does she always pose a threat. We reported previously on the case of the vessel delayed in India awaiting destruction, now known as the Platinum II, and reports in this week indicate she still lies at anchor off the Indian coast awaiting her fate whilst the wild rumours about asbestos, PCB’s and even nuclear material swirl around her.

Usually incidents are more mundane. Today news is in of the Italmoderna, a container carrier moored in Melbourne Harbour. Her cargo was disturbed and battery acid has leaked out, running down to the lower stacks of boxes giving off acrid, inflammable fumes. Twelve fire crews are currently engaged cleaning up the mess. Last week a truck carrying sulphuric acid started to spill onto the road in Derbyshire, England causing a major incident . In North Carolina a 330 gallon drum of sodium methyldithiocarbamate, the third most prolific pesticide in the North America, split open spilling across the road surface.

These cases are commonplace and nobody suggests that the last three were influenced by inattention to detail but the Platinum II seems simply a case of trying to profit by scrapping the ship where less attention might be given to the nature of her problems.

A new discovery reported in the German media may go some way to assisting in identifying dangerous substances. Although principally engineered with air passenger transport in mind the new nano electric device has obvious potential, with its inbuilt ability to analyse a liquids molecular structure, to be used more widely in a freight setting. One of the problems emergency crews often face is that of identification when they are faced with a possibly toxic spill.

The system uses a process called Hilbert spectroscopy which, using monochromatic electromagnetic wave surveillance, analyses the molecular structure in under a fifth of a second. The scientists at the Forschungszentrum Juelich claim detection of the nature of a chemical can be detected regardless of the type of container used to hold it.